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Topics - Mark in Texas

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I've got what used to be a Lemon Zest (freeze damage during the 2021 ice storm) that's shot up 5 nice branches from below the graft, all about  3/8" in girth.  Would like to cleft graft any of the following varieties - Venus, Kathy K3, Sweet Tart, Lemon Zest, Fruit Punch, Cotton Candy or Honey Kiss.  If ya got others, please note.

Greenhouse grown BTW, central Texas.  FWIW am harvesting some awesome Glenn.  Pickering and Pineapple Pkeasure are next.


Citrus General Discussion / Tiny terminal leaves
« on: March 02, 2022, 08:35:43 AM »
I have a blood orange which is putting off abnormally small, pale yellow leaves.  I'm always fighting mites so I'm wondering if this is part of that.  This is the new spring flush.  Sorry for the out of focus photo.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Ice storm Uri recovery. Hopefully never again!
« on: December 17, 2021, 09:20:24 AM »
3F outside, 21F inside the greenhouse when my back up heater ran out of fuel from a 25# propane tank.  Grafts were covered best I could, everything has recovered.  Really weird but it looks like my Sharwil has a lot of cauliflowers.  Been a very warm winter.

Citrus are loaded, flowering too.

One hungry, thirsty male cardinal trying to survive.  There are very few birds this year, none of the oak trees dropped acorns which they usually do by the thousands, and we had a grasshopper epidemic that stripped almost everything I had including the bark off small tree branches.

"Warm" blooded exotic game such as blackbuck antelope and axis deer just couldn't survive with a week of no water and food.

Lady from a Texas gardening group messaged me after purchasing one of these expensive avocado trees called 'Austin Star'.   My feeling is it's a knockoff of one of the pure Mexican avocados I call the "Tex-Mex" trees - Joey, Wilma, Fantastic, etc.  Kicker is this tree apparently went thru 10F during our Feb. Uri ice storm.  What the quality of the fruit is remains to be seen.  Even the Mexican criollo's found in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, highlands around Monterrey and Saltillo, never get down that low.

The story of the source follows:

Hi Debra, and thanks for your recent order! You’re one of the lucky few that was able to snag one of these trees. Here’s what we know:

It sustained temps under 10 degrees.  It was covered and heated.  The power went out day one and the cover only allowed it to be a few degrees above the temps around it.  Our estimations is that was below 12° at a minimum.  It is definitely cold hardy, and until the last unprecedented freeze had thrived.  In 2020 it produced hundreds of avocados only being in the ground for 7 years.

Please let me know if you have any other questions



Tropical Fruit Discussion / Major winter storm!
« on: February 14, 2021, 08:37:31 AM »
It's bad here in central Texas, historic winter lows, ice, snow.  Already had a major ice storm resulting in the usual - accidents, trees and utility poles down and the worse is yet to come beginning about 6:00 p.m. tonight with the arrival of the 3rd winter storm out of 5 to move thru.  Have not been above freezing for days which will not let up until Friday.  New lows of 2F and 3F coming - unprecedented for us.  Predictions is for up to 6" of snow tonight with sleet.

No way to get into town for a generator and such but I did fill up the big propane tank that services the greenhouse, but the main overhead fan driven heater relies on electricity which we constantly lose with utility failures and maybe brownouts which are forecasted for the next few days.

I have three filled 20# tanks, a free standing 80K BTU heater and a 15K BTU tank top heater in the greenhouse but no way to circulate the air if we lose electricity.  Am taking cuttings, mulching the trunks, etc.  Took me a while to get in the greenhouse thanks to 3" of ice blocking the door and everything frozen shut.  So far all is well regarding my stock. 

V.D. weekend is a big money maker for town, it's dead.  55+ wineries, breweries, restaurants, lodging, etc.  big loss.  Feel for them after all this Covid stuff although Texas is open in that regard.

After the heater failure in 2018 and a big loss don't know if I can do this again.  My vineyard is probably toast. 

Wish us Texan tropical fruit growers luck!

Dr. Martin has all kinds of stories about his avocado advancements.  Here's the latest, just had to share.  My sentiments exactly when it comes to bureaucracies and the local politics of public and private orgs.

I am running out of stories... but one came to mind, thanks to member Mark. I was describing to Mark my avoidance and abhorrence to politics, when I remembered being caught like a dolphin in a fish-net during my first effort to release an avocado selection: Lamb/Hass. If you are not aware, Universities are like miniature municipal governments... There is a hierarchy, and to this day I don't fully comprehend the details; but not all PhD's are equal! Somewhere at the top, below Chancellor, Dean, Department head, is the PhD researcher, and for that person I was an Associate. My level at the time was a high-ranking Tech one. Yes, one out of five! Rank in the departments is critical if you are career minded! I was never career minded. So, my challenge was this: How to get the University of California to allow me, Tech-One, to release an avocado I thought valuable to the industry, so they could claim credit if successful and remain inculpable if not. The normal protocol for new variety release was a peer "Variety Review Board". But I understood Boards. I was serving on one: The Avocado Society Board. Boards (Board of Directors) are funny creations... Purely an academic invention, because in theory they make sense, in execution they stifle creativity and slow implementation... Maybe, sometimes they avoid failure, but failure is absolutely necessary for learning... Anyway, I was in no way going to allow my variety to be subject to questions from the more highly ranked, that seldom work in the field and understand most of their insights from books and lectures. There would be only one person at the table with the insights and knowledge to recognize the value to the industry, and I could not risk that others might ask questions that would sow doubt--because we all know that there can never be certainty! So I just applied for the patent myself, and my PhD researcher, Dr. Bob Bergh permitted me the opportunity! It wasn't until after the patent submission that I was discovered... And my supervisor, Dr. Bergh, received a UC Patent Office call that there was no authorization signature from the Department... Dr. Bergh must of convinced the caller that there was a pressing time constraint from our funding source, the Avocado Commission. So the patent office determined that they would send an agent from Sacramento to personally view my research trials! I took the officer to my research work in Irvine to bring him up to speed with our program and then I took him to a plot I had tucked away on the old Irvine Ranch fields... This was a journey back in the Irvine hills, on dirt roads nestled between fields of citrus... In a hollow was an old seedling trial of 200 trees that did not offer much success, and so I had grafted in a dozen trees of the Lamb/Hass and a dozen Hass. Irvine had the resources to care for my trees! With the Irvine climate and deep loam soils my grafts were stellar. We viewed the productive open Hass trees first, and then approached the Lamb/Hass. The trees were gorgeous but no fruit could be seen as the dark green canopy trapped the interior... I pulled away the outer branches and behold there resided clusters upon clusters of large beautiful fruit! Up to this moment the encounter with the patent agent had been formal, easy but very professional..., upon seeing the Lamb/Hass fruit the agent expelled a huge gasp, jumped and then hugged me! The rest is known....

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Dropping a lot of Sharwil fruit lately, WTF?
« on: November 14, 2020, 09:52:34 AM »
Culture - rain water, 15-8-9 Osmocote, moderate light, very large bottomless RootBuilder and bunches of root mass.   Tree was loaded about 4 months ago but little by little I'm getting too many dropping.  Also the fruit size on the Sharwil branches and Lamb Hass are not getting any bigger.   Years ago I didn't have this problem with Sharwil.  Am stumped........

Couple of days ago I had posted about where GEM got its name.  Well, guess who caught wind of it!   Gray E. Martin, new member of a Facebook forum called Southern California Backyard Avocado Growers just posted this fascinating expose' of his work.  Wow!

Gray Martin
New Member
  · 12h  ·

Good day to you avocado lovers. I would like to indulge your time with an addendum story to the recent post regarding the naming of GEM avocado. Although, I find personal humor and irony in the tale of naming a variety after my initials, there is a backdrop account that I have been wanting to describe for a very long time, but with my new focus on dragonfruit breeding and production, and my perceived disinterest concerning my experience (no inquiries) these accounts have remained untold... For you to fully understand the full character of twists and turns this tale will take you have to learn a little about tree crop breeding, specifically avocado. You should anthropomorphize (compare to human) everything I describe here: The name of the game in ANY plant breeding scheme is selecting the right parent strains and producing large populations of offspring to select the desired characteristics. With this in mind, and with no inkling of what any parent avocado strain would produce, Dr. B.O. Bergh, UC Riverside Plant Breeder, set about the task of improving upon the commercial 'Fuerte' avocado. Cir 1960. By the time I arrived in 1983 there existed a multitude of "cooperative" growers that grew anywhere from 200-2000 seedling avocado trees from a long list of parent crosses. My work at the time was to assist Bob Whitsell, a Research Associate to Dr. Bergh, in evaluating the resulting fruits from the many fields and many hybrid fruits... The description of this work is another chapter, but is not unlike most plant breeders accounts of selecting for fruit quality flavor, color, size, production, etc. When I arrived the volumes of data Bob Whitsell had produced was painstakingly huge--so huge in fact that I quickly noticed that there was a lengthy lag time between data collection and data evaluation--PhD's are typically busy with publishing, teaching, meeting, etc. So, what happened on several occasions was that by the time a plant of interest appeared on the data sheets things may have drastically changed in the field! We had tree killing frosts in those days. I recall a landslide that took out more than 2000 of our trees. Sometimes growers abandoned the work--as the industry was changing with water and labor costs sky rocketing... In 1981 Dr.Bergh and Bob Whitsell patented and released three green avocado selections: 'Ester' (Ester Whitsell); 'Whitsell'; and 'Gwen' (Gwen Bergh). Dr Bergh in his humility told Bob Whitsell to name any two of the three new green-skinned varieties, and he, Dr Bergh would name the third. History shows that 'Gwen' was the most successful of the three!
Bergh concluded soon after my arrival that what we needed to really take the breeding work forward was to concentrate on what he had determined was the most valuable parent variety in his breeding efforts: Gwen. We advertised for more research cooperators, in turn for growing our seedling plants to maturity we provided free quality seedling plants, and follow-up expert advice from the likes of green-horn like me... Bergh's dream came true when Bob Lamb, a lemon grower from Camarillo said he had a sizeable amount of land that he thought would help us and assist him to preserve his hillside property from erosion, etc. We grew more than 11,000 trees for Mr. Lamb. The first planting was on the best ground in the entire project. It was relatively flat and was perfect for our initial 1,000 trees... This was 'L' block, I think 'L' stood for lemons as it was located behind a 30-acre lemon grove. It was L-block that produced the greatest amount of high-quality fruit. I personally named four and further tested at least that many more... By comparison, in a similar sized plot on the ranch, field five, there was only one seedling that had any commercial quality, 'Sir Prize' (Everything about this variety was surprising so I adjusted the spelling accordingly).
Let's now begin the story... I would drive from Riverside to Camarillo on average twice a week. I would leave late from UC, arrive before noon and work mostly until dark. I did this for years! One of my earliest interests was no. 122 (BL122) from L-block... Several times for several years I would end my day by going to look for Mr. Lamb and update with mostly my enthusiasm! He mostly shrugged at my projections; I think maybe because we had thousands of more trees to evaluate in time, so my early interest in BL122 was a little premature given my "inexperience"... I remember Bob seldom came to visit me in the field, regarding BL122 maybe twice in five years, once by himself and once on tour with our avocado industry. This is not to say Bob was not interested! He was as hopeful as me, but he mostly left me to my devices in the field. One day, in field three, more than a mile from L-block, Bob drove up. Field three was a steep hillside and I would begin my work always from the top where the rows were short and work down. I was mostly down, actually I was 29 rows down... Well when I saw Bob, I set my picking bag down and walked to me him, and he asked enthusiastically about the progress and I told him of some promise and he exclaimed "That's a nice one!"; tree five. I told him that sure a lot of them look pretty, but the testing requirements usually cause 98% of them to fail... He shrugged and we parted. Minutes later I was back to 3-29-5 with my gear. Years later this selection would be branded with MY initials.... And BL122? Well it was honored with the name Lamb for his contribution to avocado research and enhancement. Lamb/Hass maybe my favorite personal success.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Back to the ground you go you wretch!
« on: October 02, 2020, 08:45:34 AM »
Got quite the stir at a Central Texas Facebook gardening forum, many were stumped as to what this was.  One person thought it was a hot dog, that's how much folks know about growing avocados here!

This Reed seed germinated in the fruit.  I decided to have a little fun with some of my wife's nail polish.  Looks like fingers coming out of the ground.  ;D

Been eating Reeds since June. 19 mos. of hang time and still picking.

Had a very nice visit from a great San Diego grower/member and friends, Shane Atwell.  We're standing in front of Reed, Sharwil/Lamb on the left, GEM in the center, Ardith in the back.  Pineapple Pleasure, Orange Sherbet and Juicy Peach cocktail tree on the right. 

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Pickering is way too under-rated!
« on: August 18, 2020, 09:55:56 AM »
Until my wife tasted my mangos she hated them.  That's what store bought will do to you.  She's gone ga ga over Pickering.  I must admit, it ranks in our top 3 - spicy, rich, fine coconut background if allowed to hang until colored up, sweet and no fiber compared to say.... Lemon Zest.  Small tidy tree is a real bonus.  Just picked these yesterday.  Some are really nice size.

Got mealybugs? Me too! Found this Pickering mango tucked away in the canopy covered with them. This delicious "condo" mango has a background of coconut, rind smells like it it too.  Been fighting these bastards for years.  They really like annonas and mangos.  Control has to be in the crawler stage.  Hort. oil with bifenthrin. 

Tropical Fruit Discussion / How to cool a greenhouse, yeah!
« on: June 29, 2020, 02:25:41 PM »
After 2 years of research, "what ifs", and 3 weeks of messing with tank installation, fittings, pipe and climbing ladders IT'S DONE! This new greenhouse centrifugal, adjustable Aquafogger, pump, and 2,800 gal. rain water collection system is "too cool".

Fairly quiet, output adjustable from 1 - 15 gph.  Unlike nozzles and high pressure pump this is supposed to be the most reliable and easy to hang system on the market.

If anyone does Facebook my page is public and has some video.

Citrus General Discussion / Citrus harvest - recovery, grafts, harvests
« on: November 24, 2019, 10:44:43 AM »
March 2018 after Jan. 2018 heater failure. 18F temps.

Grafted at least 50 scions on 2 trees.  All 4 citrus trees are bearing heavy.  Bet I harvested 400 key limes & Eustis limequats (delish!) this year.  Now comes Persian.  Lots of oranges - Blood, Hamlin, Marrs.  Some of these Marrs are as big as grapefruit.   Super sweet and juicy. Meyer lemon tree is loaded.  Scion was put grafted to Flying Dragon around 2008.  Local grocery store is selling 5 Meyers for $6. 

Ya'll have a fun and safe Tday!

Citrus General Discussion / Marrs oranges
« on: September 23, 2019, 08:15:14 AM »
Did about 50 grafts to citrus trees last year that were frozen to the ground Jan. 2018.  Here's a cluster of 7 huge Marrs oranges on one graft.  Word is folks from California call this one "Texas Sweet". it's low acid very sweet and juicy fruit that hasn't been sold in local nurseries for a long time. 

Have been juicing, zesting and freezing super fragrant, oily key limes for months.  All citrus froze to the ground Jan. 2018 and is making a huge crop now from original stock and about 50 grafts to 3 trees.

Nothing like a frozen cocktail during this Texas heat.  Ice cubes/juice of fresh blood oranges, key limes; limequat concentrate, Blanco tequila, Bacardi, Triple Sec, agave syrup, water, ice cubes.  Blend, freeze overnight, blend, serve.  Topped off with an Italian Amarena black cherry.

Funny but I've been growing avocados since the 80's and never given any thought as to what foliar flushes the flowers push from.  Can I assume it's the previous year's growth including several flushes back, OR, is it only the most recent one?  Reason why I ask is my Reed is super vigorous and needs another haircut, it's 3rd for this year at least.  Am keeping it below 13'. 

Change gears, ate our first pitaya yesterday.  I started planted cuttings last year and the 4 are blooming like crazy - Sugar, Physical Graffiti, Santa Barbara Red, Frankie's Red.  In fact, the vigor is over the top on everything but the cocktail cherimoya which looks like crap. I don't think it likes the 100F + days.

Reed in June.  Add 2' all around now.

White Sugarloaf and others are doing the same thing - all pups, and mama won't grow big enough to fruit.  Before the Jan. 2018 freeze hit I had some 4' or so wide, big enough to fruit. 

Citrus General Discussion / No growth on a Persian lime tree
« on: May 27, 2019, 08:15:38 AM »
Am stumped.  Last year I bought a Persian lime tree (probably on Swingle rootstock) with the intention of only taking scions and grafting them.  Well, the scions took and are growing well on host trees like key lime.  I decided to plant the little tree in my usual RootBuilder pot.  it flowered, set fruit but it has been stunted with NO foliage output since I planted it.  Don't think it has HLB.  May have had a case of mites which I nailed. 

Have hit it with a high N food trying to kick it in the rear.  Here it is June and nothing.  Weird......

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Paclobutrazol on avocado
« on: March 03, 2019, 09:08:48 AM »
Anyone have first hand experience using paclo on avocados?  It's been used for decades on mangos in India.

I've been using it for years to decrease internode length, for dwarfing.  According to this study the increase in yields are not only incredible during "good" years but also during off years.   We're talking - "reaching 97 and 174% above the controls in two groves".  "The best additional yields, of 379 and 546% in two different groves, were obtained from sprays at the stages of elongating inflorescences and incipient anthesis."

Some of my mangos are taking a beating. In making up a batch of soil I used compost that was obviously made with manure tainted with broad leaf herbicides sourced from our local stockyard.   Young mangos planted late spring with a soil mix containing this compost shows the  usual herbicide signs - twisted branches and leaves,  new grafts that don't grow right, leaves with chlorosis.  Hoping to leech it out I have drenched the raised beds with well and rain water but it's not working.  I have also planted grasses like bluestem grass seeds with the intent of uptake and then disposing of the infected grasses.  My veggie garden was a total failure this year after working in a lot of this local compost on it.   Any active "micro" life that is the real deal that might work to break down this crap?

I have a 6 yr. old propane fed Reznor UDAP 120K heater which crapped out on me last year resulting in years of grafting/growing losses, much less the emotional strain.  Tech fixed it and sure enough, we get 23F lows the other day and it failed at about 5:00.  Luckily had only a low of 30F but still lost a few new grafts and a large bearing tomato plant.  I did 86 grafts this year on citrus, avocado, annona and mango and don't want to go thru this again! 

After narrowing my choices down between a L.B. White Thermoglow 120 and a Sterling GG 105, think I'm gonna go with the Sterling.  Lots to like and the change out will be easy. 

Thoughts based on experience?  Am looking for a heater that is reliable.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Easy peasy (and cheap) pitaya trellis
« on: September 22, 2018, 08:56:49 AM »
Pitaya trellis is in place. Easy peasy - 1" PVC, old cattle panel laying around, wire loom on the perimeter to protect the tender tissue.  5' high X 2' W X 6' long.

Santa Barbara red, Physical Graffiti, Sugar, and the bare spot on the left will host a Frankie's red now in a pot in a bottomless, raised bed of RootBuilder.  Food is exclusively Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor.

Top, ready for the 6 legs.

As an aside, checked the pH of my rainwater. 5.32!  Don't have a clue why.

All my fairly young PIN mango trees are showing what I suspect is broadleaf herbicide damage due to mixing in and top dressing the pots with pine bark mulch, Lowe's Landscaping brand and another one from a local lumber yard which was pine bark fines.  What I don't understand is why some of the leaves are huge and perfect and others on the same plant are twisted and cupped like this Pickering.

Here's an old pot with 3 varieties on what was a Mallika, now Turpentine - Pineapple Pleasure, Juicy Peach and Orange Sherbet growing very well.  2 mos. ago I put the OS on it and it's already on its 3rd set of leaves - bottom right.  Has to be the mulch, right?   ???

I highly recommend getting certified disease free wood from the TX Aggies, Weslaco....and it aint just HLB you need to worry about, it's stuff like tristeza and about a dozen other diseases.  Since March I've done 37 citrus grafts and recently got 40 buds from the Aggie budwood program and shared some of it with 2 other growers.

From Mark VanNess, program manager, via an email:

"One of the biggest threats to the citrus industry is the spread of disease by movement of plants or receiving budwood from an unknown, uncertified source.  We spend over $40,000 annually in an extensive testing program for our Foundation and Scion source trees.  All trees are individually tested for Huanglongbing (Citrus greening) , Citrus tristeza virus, Citrus Tatter Leaf virus, Citrus leaf blotch virus, Citrus psorosis virus, Citrus exocortis viroid, Hop stunt viroid, and Citrus dwarfing viroid.  Therefore I again encourage you and others to always order from our program.  It will be well worth the cost to ensure that you are receiving clean, pathogen-free, true-to-type citrus budwood."

My 4 cocktail trees now have these oranges - Hamlin, Marrs, Calamondin, Olinda Valencia and the bloods - Moro and Tarocco.  Lemons - Meyer, Pomona seedless (cold hardy into the teens FWIW).  Limes - key, limequat  (cold hardy substitute) and Persian.

And don't forget the clothespins when doing T-buds.  :D

Trust me, that's the easiest way to really clamp down to insure good cambium contact on wood that's up to 1/2" in girth.  Beats the helluva rubber bands and vinyl tape.  The Buddy Tape helps cushion any epidermal tissue damage. I remove them after 2 weeks.

With a heater failure in Jan. and a complete die back of all my greenhouse stock including this bearing Reed, I thought I had lost it. Temps went down to 18F, for how long I don't know.  I think the heavy mulch and thick canopy was enough of a heat blanket to save it and more importantly it had been acclimated to low/mid 30F temps days before the big one hit.

Stump in March 6:

August 15.  This is a big tree with 3 trunks now.  Photo doesn't do it justice.  It's in a raised bed, a bottomless 100 gal. RootBuilder pot which is dwarfed by this tall and wide gorgeous tree.  There's not a blemish anywhere on it and fast approaching the 10' gutter.

I don't know what happened to all my greenhouse trees that survived but it's like they're on steroids now.  I had a complete die back of my citrus.  I now have a key lime that I've grafted 3 orange varieties to, persian lime, limequat, etc. that's 9' tall.  Fertilizer has been like always, a slow release pill, this year Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor, 6 mo.

This Sugar cutting has been in the ground for weeks, nothing.  I'm beginning to think I have it upside down.   :o  Should the cut side go in or the point?   

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